1902: The Red Law and the White

lummi illo

“Their captain had returned to his own.” (page 471)

Lavishly illustrated by a B.J. Rosenmeyer, today’s excerpt looks suspiciously made-up…

The whole thing is told in prose dripping with romantic sentiment, while purporting to be an anecdote of post-frontier life in Whatcom County in the northwestern tip of Washington State.

A fateful interracial game of American football is accompanied by this cheer from the Lummi Indian team’s fans:


Hyas Klosh!
Si-Wash! [‘Indians’]

— from page 470 of “The Red Law and the White: An Instance of Conflicting Civilizations on Puget Sound” by Joseph Blethen, in Everybody’s Magazine volume VII, number 5, November 1902, pages 466-473

One source of my skepticism here is that in 1902, it was already customary in the USA for White football fans to chant “yells” (what we now call “cheers”) of support that were meant to resemble “primitive” “grunting”.

I personally remember an embarrassing one from my Columbia University marching band days in the 1980s, ugh.

An exceedingly popular source of words for those yells, in the Pacific Northwest, was Chinuk Wawa. All of them in our region resembled what’s quoted today.

And not once have I come across an instance of a football yell in the Jargon that was composed by anyone but a Settler.

I can’t bring myself to see today’s specimen as “Chinook as seen in the wild”, for reasons like these.

(PS: those sports yells were soon simultaneously generalized — to be hollered at any sporting event — and repurposed — into expressions of support for one’s school rather than for a casual sports team.)

What do you think?